Big Island - Waipi'o Valley


What? : Waipi'o valley is probably the most beautiful valley in the Big Island, no doubt it is the most famous one.

The valley surrounded from it sides by cliffs up to 2000-feet high. From the high valley viewing point to the other side of the valley it is about one mile wide. The mountains are covered with lush green rainforest, towards the back mountains side, the valley has many waterfalls. Below you, where the ocean meets the land, you can see the beautiful black sand beach that is cut in two by the valley river.


Where? : Depending from where you are in the big island you should take Highways 19 to Honokaa, located in the north west section of the island. The small town of Honokaa is located 41 miles north of Hilo or 15 miles east of Waimea. From the small town take road 240 and drive additional 9 miles all the way north to the end of the road.

Google Map Link


Link to other Big Islands Blog posts:

Due note 1: This is a very popular tourist location, the small parking lot fills up quickly, if you can find a parking spot park your car on the side of the road. Restrooms are available near the parking lot.


Due note 2: This east side of the island gets a lot of rain; I highly recommend having a rain jacket or even umbrellas.


Due note 3: At summer don't forget the mosquito repellent.


Due note 4: The entire back of the valley is private property and only the road going down and to the beach is public land. Respect private property and “no-overnight” camping signs.


Due note 5: There are often wild horses wandering around on the roads, please drive slowly near them.


Due note 6: There are no public restrooms in the valley, use the facilities at the Waipi‘o Overlook before going down.


Due note 7: If you do not have 4-wheel drive (or your rental agreement do not allow driving this road), or you do not want to hike down and up, there are several tour options available.


My thoughts: At our Big Island visit we rented 4x4 wheel drive vehicle. When taking the car, we did not receive any explicit warning that this road is not allowed to drive, and we did not ask.

I do have a lot of off-road experience, but this road was probably the steepest I ever took. Make sure you are in control of your speed going down and set it to 4x4 low on your way up. Do not drive to fast on your way up, make sure you do not over-heat your engine.

The beach itself with the forest is very nice and we enjoy our short time here.

We did not go to swim in the ocean, it was rainy winter day and the wave where high and it was un-safe for us.

I visit here twice, one day it was with heavy rain and the road to the beach was very muddy. The second time, few days later, it was already late at the afternoon, we drove up and out when it was already dark.

In both time the river flow was powerful above knee-deep current, so we did not hike to the north side of the beach… next time ….



The visit:


Waipio valley is at the west section of Kohala Volcano, the oldest of 4 other volcanoes that make up the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Kohala Volcano last erupted about 120.000 years ago, around 250.000 years ago part of the volcano fell into the ocean in a massive landslide.

This landslide creates the sharp tall standing cliffs falling to the ocean stretching on more than 5 miles of the island northeastern part. Waipi'o valley is the most southern valley that carved into the Kohala volcano, where Pololu valley is at the north side of this cliff section. There are no roads that cross this area south to north of the island.


Waipio valley is located on the west side of the mountain this area receives a lot of rain. The rain and rivers carved out the valley and created a fertile soil that is good for agriculture. These valleys were a popular place to live for the native Hawaiians.


Waipio Valley means “the land of curving water”, you can see how the large valley curved out by the streams of water. A fertile and productive valley floor that enable agricultural activity and many Taro fields.


Waipio Valley Lookout:

Park your car in the small parking lot at the end of Highway 240 or, inevitably because it is full, on the street leading to it (do not block private properties gates).

Walk to the viewing point and enjoy the picturesque valley view below.

From the viewing point the valley surrounded by cliffs up to 2000-feet high. From this point to the other side of the valley it is about one mile wide, and it stretch six miles into the mountain to your far left. Towards the back, the valley has many waterfalls. Below, where the ocean meets the land, you can see the beautiful black sand beach that is cut in two by the valley river.

Take landscape pictures and read the signs with some history information, if you are not going down to the valley floor there is not so much more to do here.


Drive down to the valley:

The public paved road from the viewing point to the valley floor is considered to be the steepest road by length in the United States, a 800-foot in just 0.6 miles. The average grade of the road is 25%, but peaks at some sections as 40% !

In order to drive into the road, you must have 4x4 wheel drive vehicle to get down and up on this incredibly steep road (this road is not for AWD).

Even if you have 4x4 car, make sure that your rental car agreement allows you driving this road.

The road is very steep, narrow, winding, and at some sections it is 1 car width. Downhill cars must stop where it stated and before proceeding make sure uphill cars are not in this section.

You need 4x4 wheel drive so you can put your vehicle in low gear and spare your brakes going down and also use it on your way up.

Remember that up-hill traffic has the right of way.


When reaching the bottom of the road, you will reach a small trail junction. You can either turn left (more like continue straight) and drive the dirt road toward the back of the valley and catch a glimpse of the incredible Hi’ilawe Falls, the tallest waterfall in Hawaii at 1450 feet.

Or you can turn sharp right and head toward the coast, drive additional 0.5 mile to Waipio black sand beach.



The hike down to the bottom of the valley and to the beach is the same paved road the cars use. The total length of this hike is about ~6.5 miles including lots of vertical climbing on your way back up.

Be aware of vehicles as you are hiking on this narrow and winding road.

Make sure to allow cars to pass you safely, the car drivers are focus on the road, step aside and let them go.

The steep hike is challenging in both directions, it will probably take you about 45 minutes to get down and more than an hour to get back all the way up to the top.


The Beach:

This is a beautiful black sand beach with impressive large bay opening and a river stream that cut its way to the ocean. This beach is known for its rip currents and high surf, making it a dangerous place to go swimming especially during the winter months.

If you plan to cross the Wailoa river to the northern side of the bay be careful. After heavy rain and when the river has high flow the rocks at the section it is flowing to the ocean can be a slippery with fast and powerful above knee-deep current.

Kaluahine Falls can sometimes be viewed from the right side of the beach when there is heavy rain.


When we visit here, we saw few swimmers but I’m not sure I recommend such activity.


I saw at some websites that if you walk along the beach to the north side of the Waipio Valley, a foot trail will take you over the ridge to the Waimanu Valley north of this valley. You can hike just to the top of the ridge and see Waipio valley view from the north to south direction.


More Pictures: